BUFFALO - A mere two minutes into last night's game, Glen Murray ripped off his first shot in nearly two months, a blast off the shoulder of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
It was one of four shots Murray recorded in the Bruins' 3-2 shootout win while making a successful return from a strained hip flexor that sidelined him for 19 games. Murray served as an alternate captain, a title held by Marco Sturm while the right wing was out.
"I like what Muzz did," said coach Claude Julien. "For a guy who hasn't played in about 6-7 weeks and missed close to 20 games, as a veteran, he did a great job to get himself in shape. I know he pushed himself hard, not just on but off the ice."
During even-strength play, Murray skated on the third line with P.J. Axelsson and David Krejci. On the power play, he took his usual spot on the No. 1 unit, setting up in the high slot with his stick ready for feeds from Marc Savard.
Murray skated 23 shifts for 17:13. He was credited with three hits and got into a second-period scuffle with defenseman Dmitri Kalinin during a scrum in front of the net that led to a roughing minor. Murray's skating appeared smooth and powerful, prompting Axelsson to pay his compliments to strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides for keeping the winger in shape.
"I had my chances there in the first and second periods," said Murray. "If I had gotten one, maybe my legs would have felt a little better. But it wasn't too bad."
Murray expects to play tonight against Florida.
Getting betterWhile Murray got back in uniform, Bobby Allen could be next. Out the last 18 games because of back spasms, Allen has practiced with his teammates all week. Allen didn't play last night, but he participated in the morning skate and is on the verge of returning.
For the Bruins, the return of healthy bodies is a good thing - even in the view of those who would feel the immediate impact.
"That's what you need," said Shane Hnidy, currently the No. 6 defenseman, the slot Allen would be fighting for. "Especially when you're making a playoff run."
For most of the season, because of an outbreak of injuries (223 man-games lost entering last night), the Bruins have been limited to 12 forwards and six defensemen. Julien, however, prefers to have one extra forward and defenseman to create competition for ice time.
Gradually, good health is returning to the Bruins. In practice Thursday, before Peter Schaefer had to leave early because of his shin contusion, the Bruins had two spare forwards: Petteri Nokelainen and Jeremy Reich.
"Guys are pushing each other," said Reich, the healthy scratch last night. "You've got to play well to stay in the lineup. Pushing each other out on the ice is going to help the team out."
Even as the Bruins heal, they acknowledge that more injuries will probably take place. In 2001-02, Hnidy's second season with Ottawa, the defenseman was a healthy scratch early in the year. But Hnidy kept himself in shape and worked hard in practice. When Karel Rachunek was sidelined with a shoulder injury, Hnidy slotted into his spot on the blue line, appearing in 33 regular-season games.
Hnidy remained in the lineup as the Senators rolled through Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs, and also saw ice time when Ottawa took Toronto to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"Depth is what you need," Hnidy said. "Something always happens."